By Chris Zuver, Staff Writer
On April 21, as part of the 13th Italian Film Festival USA, the film “La Pazza Gioia” (“Like Crazy”) was shown at the Jerzewiak Family Auditorium at Washington University as part of an ongoing series.
The film, directed by Paolo Virze, is described by PANORAMA as “an Italian comedy in the style of ‘Thelma & Louise.’”
The plot revolves around Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti), two women who are patients of a mental institution in Tuscany. Beatrice is an extrovert and claims to be of nobility, while Donatella is withdrawn and carries a mystique. Over time, these two opposites come together to become friends and escape the ward in an adventure to find happiness.
For the mainstream American audience, this film will certainly come across as off-beat in terms of what many would consider a comedy. As the plot progresses, there is a harsh streak of darkness that is shown in the backstory of the two female protagonists, who, throughout the movie, both confront remnants of their pasts and ultimately face the reality of who they are. Yet during the whole fiasco, the comedic elements hardly let up.
As for the comedy, the jokes are often brief but are always effective. The humor is mostly based in the dialogue that occurs between the two female leads, who make claims that range from silly snubs between each other to bigoted racial or sexual remarks.
The real point of interest is the dichotomy between Beatrice and Donatella. Beatrice immediately takes interest in Donatella, who, at the beginning of the movie, is a new patient at the institution. At first, the two do not get along well. Donatella dismisses Beatrice for her crude personality. However, the two quickly develop a camaraderie and escape the institution by means of a bus that they flag down near their ward.
Throughout the film, the two battle over interests as they travel through Italy. Beatrice, being a care-free spirit on the outside, tries to run from her problems and in doing so acts impulsively. Donatella, however, lives with regret and a crippling depression that causes her to withdraw and lash out when provoked.
When applied to the rating system of this country, “La Pazza Gioia” would probably receive an R, though the film dances on a fine line. There are a couple of brief scenes of nudity, a handful of phrases that would be deemed offensive, and a few disturbing graphic moments. Yet for the most part, the content seems to be in the PG-13 area.
Ultimately, “La Pazza Gioia” is a film about multiple dimensions. In the movie, we see love, friendship, acceptance, insanity, laughter, and through it all—humanity. While it is clear in the film that the leading ladies are out of their minds, they have hearts that shine through the difficulty of their struggles and, in the end, prove that they are interested in more than just their own problems.
“La Pazza Gioia” and other Italian films will continue their tour through the country as part of the Italian Film Festival USA, whose final stop will be in Milwaukee from April 28–30.